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By MICHAEL GEHL and JIM RILEY
December 16, 2021 12: 00 AM
We write to refute the unauthorized “no-confidence” letter recently sent to you by certain school superintendents gone rogue. These superintendents spoke with no authority from their local school boards or the parents and students they purport to serve. We remind you and the news media that the superintendents are nothing more than unelected bureaucrats who do not represent the people of the state of Montana. The people elected you twice, and we are delighted they did so. We thank you sincerely for the compassionate, professional, and steadfast support you offer to local school boards and, most of all, parents and students. We are so proud of you and the work you do.
The people elected you for a second time as a testament to our approval of your superb performance during your first term. As parents and trustees, we wish to affirm your overwhelmingly positive response to parent and student interests. You have shown courage and endurance in receiving an avalanche of public comments this past year. You have responded with laudable vigor to parents seeking your assistance in pushing back against unelected school officials and their wildly unpopular agenda. You aided parents in resisting superintendent agendas of forced masking and Equity Policies. You helped parents expose and ban pedophilic grooming materials like “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy.” You brought parent concerns over racist Critical Race Theory curricula to the attention of the Montana Attorney General, who declared the hateful material and messaging to violate the Montana Human Rights Act. Despite hate from the left, you shouldered these burdens on behalf of the vast majority of parents from around Montana who oppose the school bureaucrats’ radical agenda. Montana has rarely seen a more effective advocate for parents and students.
Not satisfied with these accomplishments, you have also spent enormous resources and time responding to parents with committed outreach, tirelessly traveling the state, in all weather, to talk face to face with parent groups about what is most important to them. You have been stalwart in promoting the rights of parents over the superintendents and their radical agenda. You are a true pioneer and champion of parental rights and parental choice.
Thank you for the heavy lifting of eradicating waste, fraud, and abuse from the tired and entrenched OPI bureaucracy. Yes, reform in the name of the people who elected you has indeed caused turnover. The reform, however, was not only long overdue but absolutely necessary. You have shown “true grit” in refusing to be bullied by defenders of the failed status quo. Montana educational institutions have been saddled for at least 20 years with entrenched unions and bureaucrats from the minority party. The clear majority of Montanans — who elected you — now expect and demand change, not only in failed policies, but in failed staff. It’s called “accountability.” And you delivered.
Whenever a school board or a particular trustee needs advice, assistance, or instruction, whether in the fine points of boardsmanship or legal compliance or how to best approach a local problem, you have faithfully assisted all who called upon you for counsel. You have worked tenaciously to help parents and trustees with the array of tools at your disposal. You successfully secured and assured funding for local schools from a variety of state and federal resources. You have consistently focused on parents and students — and put power in their hands, not the hands of the unelected school bureaucrats. Your success in putting parents and students first, and administrators and teacher unions second, explains why these bureaucrats have now attacked you with such raw venom.
Ultimately, the superintendents targeted you because of the idea that got you elected. The superintendents hate the idea that parents have the fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of their children. Shame on them.
Keep up the good fight, Elsie. You shine as an example for us all.
Michael Gehl is a trustee for Missoula County Public Schools. Jim Riley is a trustee for Smith Valley School District in Kalispell. This letter was sent to state Superintendent Elsie Arntzen and signed by 21 Republican state lawmakers, five school board trustees and more than 500 citizens.
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